Mastering Performance Metrics

  • Published June 14, 2023
  • / By Sarah Clough

If your team hasn’t historically included metrics in performance reviews or organizational reporting, or if you feel your metrics need to be adjusted, it’s important to take a considered approach that sets you and your team up for success.

Ultimately the goal of performance metrics is to create a culture of transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement. At the same time, metrics should never obscure your organization’s mission. The focus of your team’s activity should remain on enhancing a prospect’s or donor’s relationship with the organization and maximizing the impact of their philanthropy.

Where to begin? Set realistic goals. Goals should reflect the culture, values, and realities of your organization, have a healthy blend of realism and aspiration, and include diverse perspectives. Your goals cannot be to simply “raise more money” or “close more gifts.” You must define what those factors mean for your organization.

Metrics should measure what matters. Just because something can be measured doesn’t mean it should be a metric. The most effective metrics illustrate how each team member contributes to the mission. Explore how you define success and how metrics will be used to measure it. A well-rounded approach recognizes and rewards all aspects of performance — agility, teamwork, and ambition — and takes into account the characteristics of your team.

Don’t overcomplicate the process. In order to provide insights that inform decision-making and drive action, metrics need to be easily understood, readily available, and timely. To create a sustainable performance metrics program, it will be important to effectively leverage your resources. As you consider the best methods for tracking and analyzing success, think about what data you already have versus what additional data you will need and how you will acquire and store that new data.

Continuous improvement is an evolutionary process. The more you learn about how your metrics are driving positive outcomes, the more you can refine them. This excellent article in the Harvard Business Review is worth a read and worthy of a browser bookmark: Why Strategy Execution Unravels and What to Do About It. As it states, “No Gantt chart [or metric!] survives contact with reality. No plan can anticipate every event that might help or hinder [an organization] trying to achieve its strategic objectives.” Stay nimble, be transparent, and be open to collaborative problem-solving to ensure success remains within reach.